When the Oakland A's acquired Brett Lawrie last winter, we didn't know a whole lot about him. We knew he was talented, having recently been considered one of the great up-and-coming youngsters in all of baseball. We knew he was twitchy and inconsistent, capable of looking amazing or terrible on any given day. And we knew he was intense, when our friends at Bluebird Banter described him in a way that can be summed up with the words "Red Bull."
We got to see the full Lawrie Spectrum this weekend in Kansas City, and the series isn't even over yet. Here are the things we either learned, or already knew but had confirmed.
Lawrie plays with 100% intensity, all the time
Think Josh Reddick laying out for catches with an 8-0 lead. Or Sam Fuld laying out for catches with an 8-0 lead. Or Coco Crisp laying out for ... you get the idea. Some guys just play as hard as they can all the time. Lawrie is one of them, except that his amp is a bit stronger and goes all the way to 11.
From where we were sitting on Friday when Lawrie ran to second on a ground ball, we could pretty clearly tell that Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was setting up like a first baseman, just trying to get the force out and not looking for a double play. We could also tell that Lawrie had a pretty good chance to actually reach the base safely, and that this should have been his main focus. From Lawrie's point of view, all he knew was that the ball was on the ground and that an infielder had it. He probably figured he was hosed (making him a hoser?) and that his only remaining job was to make sure that his teammate wouldn't be doubled up at first.
My opinion? I think he got a little too excited and played that one a bit harder than he needed to. I don't think he needed to completely take out Escobar's legs, especially with his spikes raised like that, and I think he should have made a better attempt to just be safe at second (which he absolutely could have done).
BUT, it was a weird play, with a deflection off the pitcher straight to an infielder. It was confusing in real time, and where there is confusion there can be accidents. I honestly don't think Lawrie was trying to be dirty or to hurt anyone; I think he was just making a baseball play but making it a bit harder than it needed to be made. There is still a lesson to be learned for him there, but only a marginal one. He should still try to take out the second baseman when he thinks a double play is in the realm of possibility.
Below that intensity, Lawrie does have a heart
We saw his soft side over the offseason, when he visited the young Blue Jays fan who cried upon news of his departure. He acts like the Tasmanian devil from Looney Tunes on the field, but he displayed an appropriately cool head once the game was over.
After the game, which Escobar left injured, Lawrie sought out his phone number from a Royals teammate. He sent along a sincere apology, which I understand as a common professional courtesy for one player who has injured another. The fact that the Royal (Eric Hosmer) apparently passed on the wrong phone number and the message was never received is not really relevant; Lawrie did everything he reasonably could to apologize and try to make things right. He owned up to his mistake. What more can you ask?
For those who had asked: Brett Lawrie's text to the number for Alcides Escobar that Eric Hosmer gave him: pic.twitter.com/4svOO6WoUy— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) April 18, 2015
Lawrie knows when to move on from something
The stage was set for fireworks on Saturday. The Royals didn't seem particularly mad at Lawrie, especially after Ned Yost exonerated him after the game on Friday (via Susan Slusser), but the KC fans let the A's third baseman hear it during each at-bat. In the fourth inning, the A's took a 5-0 lead on a homer by Josh Reddick, and Lawrie conveniently strode to the plate just as the game was slipping away from emerging loose cannon Yordano Ventura.
The next part was laughably predictable, though not terribly funny. On his first pitch, Ventura missed outside by enough that it might have gone behind a left-handed hitter; I assumed that he was setting up the alibi that he had simply lost control before plunking the batter, with a homer and a wild pitch on his previous two offerings as flimsy proof. And sure enough, the next pitch hit Lawrie in the elbow. The umpire immediately ejected Ventura from the game, which was the right call. Everyone in the stadium knew the HBP was coming, and that it was intentional when it did come. Cut and dried -- Ventura didn't even argue the call.
And then came the key to the whole episode. Once drilled, Lawrie set down his bat and calmly walked to first. He didn't look at Ventura, he didn't talk to Ventura, he just walked. He knew the pitch was coming, he knew that he had earned it*, he gritted his teeth and took his medicine, and that was the end of it. He moved on and took his base, with the the loose ends tied up and the altercation over.
* Note: No baseball player ever "earns" getting hit by a pitch. That is a stupid, stupid tradition. But within the context of how the game works in the present day, Lawrie had earned it.
Ventura did not show the same restraint. When he didn't get the fiery reaction he wanted, he started walking toward Lawrie and badgering him further. And lest you take that as a knock against the class of the Royals, note that Sal Perez and Eric Hosmer practically escorted Lawrie to his base; I have to conclude that Ventura acted alone on this one. I don't think Yost called the pitch, and I don't think the rest of the team felt the needed for that revenge. I have no way of knowing, so that's just my speculation. But I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, just as I hope they are giving Lawrie the benefit of the doubt, especially given that Ventura is quickly earning his own reputation as a hothead.
Brett Lawrie is going to do some crazy things sometime. He'll pound an entire bottle of sports drink in five seconds. He will yell and scream when he does good things, and when he does bad things, and maybe when he does totally normal things, and at some point he will ruffle feathers again. However, it doesn't appear that causing harm will ever be his intention, and if he ever does by mistake then he will do what he can to atone. And when an incident is resolved, he's shown that he's at least capable of letting it go.
No fan wants to root for the bad guy, and it was important to me to see Lawrie reveal that he wasn't one. I needed to know that he's not a villain, and I got my wish. I'm proud to have him on my team.